Unitarian Universalist Congregation
of Northern Chautauqua

companionship on life's sacred journey

Keep To Our Promises

December 2018

From the Heart

We are often encouraged to “keep our promises.” In this one particular case, I encourage folks to “keep to our promises.”

I am talking here about the mutual promises and commitments we make when we connect ourselves to our Unitarian Universalist congregations. We bundle these promises together and call them “covenants.”

I encourage us to “keep to” such covenants because we recognize our own imperfection in keeping to the letter and spirit. We will miss the mark in small – and sometimes large – ways.

Rather than kicking ourselves around in shame about our failures, we are called to forgive ourselves – and others. Then we acknowledge our mistakes and get on with the work of community. A covenant is not a brittle, fragile thing that shatters under stress. Better to think of a covenant as a woven fabric with lots of give and room for patches and repairs.

On the afternoon of Sunday December 9, we will host a workshop to consider our own Covenant of Right Relations in this light. I hope many of you will be able to attend.

Reverend George

© 2018 Reverend George Buchanan

Refined Intuition

November 2018

From the Heart

You’ve heard people say: “Trust your gut” or “Follow your Heart.” And I believe there is deep wisdom here, particularly in religious matters. When we use these terms, we are talking about our feelings and our intuition. And the religious life, properly defined, is about feelings and intuition.

Now this reliance on intuition does not rest easy with many Unitarian Universalists, and I share some of this unease. Our religious communities put strong emphasis on the use of reason and science – and quite rightly so.

For me, the way through any concerns here is to rely on what philosopher John Dewey calls “refined intuition.” Dewey urges us to subject our intuitions to careful consideration and reflection.

I recently experienced a great example of this refined intuition. I was in a workshop about spiritual practices and I had a chance to try out a form of what is called “lectio divina.” In this exercise, I consider a passage of scripture – reading it through several times and in different ways. I then notice the words and phrases that resonate most deeply for me. Here’s how one author describes the next steps:

“What thoughts come up as you think about these words? How do they move you? What can they teach you? Really let them sink in as you contemplate them. Is there something you can learn from these words that you can incorporate into your life or your practice?”

In this, I use my intuition to notice what seems to resonate. And then I use my reason and understanding to learn from the experience of this reading – to refine my intuition.

So be willing to stop and pay attention when your gut or your heart seem to resonate with a text, or a part of your lived experience. There may be something deep and important waiting for you there.

Love to all,
Reverend George Buchanan

© 2018 Reverend George Buchanan

Releasing the old, welcoming the new

October 2018

From the Heart

Alan Watts says:
“the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.”

There is deep wisdom here. If we hold something tightly because it helps us feel secure, we risk losing the very thing we value. This is certainly true of our breath. We each want to keep breathing, and so we have learned to release each old breath and welcome the new one.

Or consider a child we care for and care about. There is the old saying, “If you truly love someone, you must be ready to let them go.” Children are growing and changing and inevitably moving away from us in so many ways. If we understand our love for them fully, we learn to accept growth and change. We know this is the way of things.

Part of our individual religious process is sorting through what we value and seeking out what we find most trustworthy and important. We learn to let our breathing and our loving relationships flow and move.

And still we seek the deeper patterns behind this flow of life. We end up with terms like “God” and “Tao” and “Enlightenment” and “Love.” There may be some security here. But life moves on and we still have questions.

On October 14 I’ll be digging more into the wisdom of Alan Watts. We’ll look at some of the answers he proposes to the deep questions that still remain in our hearts; we’ll consider how his answers might help.

Love to All.
Reverend George Buchanan

© 2018 Reverend George Buchanan

Radical Hope

September 2018

From the Heart

Recently I’ve used words like this to open worship for our Unitarian Universalist congregation:

“Welcome to this, our community of radical hope. Here we hope and pray for the Beloved Community – a world made fair with all her people free. We strive to realize this in our own lives, in our presence with one another, and in the broader communities around us.”

This hope I speak of is “radical” in the original Latin sense of the word. To take a radical approach to something means to get at the root of it, or to deal with the fundamentals of it.

This radical hope is religious, because we are considering the roots of what is most deeply and fundamentally worthy of our loyalty and commitment. This is so whether we are committed to God, or Goddess, or the Tao, or Truth, or Justice, or one of many other expressions of the fundamental. We are willing to set aside lesser things, if needed, for the sake of our deepest commitments.

What is radical hope like? Well, many Unitarian Universalists have come to our congregations from different religious traditions. These searchers were and are motivated by one form of radical hope – the hope that a community might exist consistent with their beliefs.

Or consider the process of becoming a Welcoming Congregation in our faith. This is a congregational process grounded in radical hope for communities open to all, no matter whom they love or how they identify their gender.

There are lots of other examples of ways we can live in radical hope. In the coming year I will be exploring different aspects of radical hope, in sermons, in workshops, and in our lives together.

You can learn more about radical hope here.

Love to all,
Reverend George Buchanan

© 2018 Reverend George Buchanan

Minister Messages from 2017 - 2018